This book is a dream come true... literally. Ever since I saw it once on "world's weirdest books" list, I have wanted to possess it: however, the fact that it was very difficult to get hold of a copy and even if one was found, the price would very well drive it out of my reach forced me keep it on a very remote wishlist. Until Liz provided me with a pdf copy. Thanks, Liz!
It would be wrong to say that I have read Codex Seraphinianus
- I haven't. In fact, nobody other than the author has. It is written in a totally incomprehensible and so far undeciphered language which the author, Luigi Serafini, has steadfastly refused to translate. The doubt remains that there is nothing to decipher - that it is all a giant hoax, meaningless scrolls and whorls meant to look like profound wisdom. This, we may never know.
The "Codex" is an illustrated encyclopaedia of sorts, with sections devoted to botany, zoology, anatomy, geography etc. - at least, so much we can infer from the layout and the pictures. But the country it describes is something imagined by Hieronymus Bosch and M.C.Escher on acid, with some liberal help from Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. In some aspects, it is very much like our world: but as one looks closer, the weirdness begins to be apparent. Trees which uproot themselves and jump into the water like lemmings; chairs which are grown and harvested; human beings composed partly of firearms; a copulating couple who merge into a crocodile; human beings composed of balls of wool and umbrellas from the waist up... the eerie images can be enumerated ad inifinitum
. The funny thing is that, we get a feeling that we just need to understand the language to make sense of this strange and wonderful world: being unable to do so frustrates us. I found myself constantly pondering... what meaning is hidden in those strange squiggles?
The author may have meant it as a joke, but I think this book illustrates one profound characteristic of language. Unless we infuse meaning into those lines and curves, and link them with sounds and meanings, isn't all language nonsense? For example, my son and wife can read Arabic, so they stop and read the signboards on the the roadside, but for me those beautiful snakelike markings are just decoration.
The highest recommendation for any connoisseur of the weird (like me!).